2019 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD Review

Compact crossover fun that bucks the trend


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Excellent driving experience, unique body design, superior interior quality and style, great safety ratings and tech.
Negatives: Cramped inside for 2nd row passengers and cargo, a bit underpowered.
Bottom Line: The CX-3 thankfully exists in a sea of compact crossovers that all look and drive pretty much the same. It does uniqueness without being weird. But you do have to sacrifice some cargo space and room to get fun. It's great to drive, but it could use Mazda's 2.5-liter, 184 horsepower engine to make it great.
The CX-3 is the compact crossover that doesn't get as much attention as it should, and only those who really want a great driving experience or stand out from the crossover crowd will seriously consider it. The 2019 marks the fourth year of the first-generation CX-3, and the competition seems hotter than ever with the Honda HR-V, the Toyota C-HR, and the Hyundai Kona in the mix. We drove the top trim CX-3 Grand Touring with All-Wheel Drive for a week to see if this mini-machine could get our blood flowing. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

8.8

 

The CX-3 is so much less about practicality and more about the driving experience. It's where the CX-3 stands out from the competition, really.

Ride Quality: Like most Mazdas, the ride is on the firm/sporty side, but that's a good thing. It doesn't feel upsetting or harsh, but you do feel the bumps in the road.

Acceleration: Though it's not at the top of the heap in terms of grunt, it feels faster than its 8-second 0-60 time would indicate thanks to great throttle response and a quick-shifting automatic transmission.

Braking: The CX-3's brakes bring the crossover a bit on the long side, but there is progressive pedal feel.

Steering: Steering is sharp, and turn-in is quick. It's standard Mazda, and it's very rewarding.

Handling: The CX-3 gets G-Vectoring Control for 2018, which gives the car excellent handling charcteristics, even more than it already has.

Technology

8.7

 

The technology in the CX-3 won't wow anyone, but it is very utilitarian and practical, if not visually stunning. Everything works pretty easily, and the presence of physical controls makes driving the focus and not fussing with in-car tech.

Infotainment System: Mazda's system could use a more vivid look, but the system is easy to read and menus are easy to navigate. We wish some of the audio icons were easier to decipher, but you'll figure them out after a few uses.

Controls: Physical knobs for audio and climate are very good, as well as simple steering wheel controls. The Commander knob in the center console is one of the best in the business and so easy to use while driving.

Styling

8.4

 

The CX-3 is the most unique looking compact crossover out there (the bizarre Toyota C-HR is unique but distinctly unattractive). It's edgy without being offensive, creased and sculpted without being overstyled.

Front: We love the CX-3's front end. It's a great execution and blend of a well-sized grille, sleek signature headlights, and a nicely creased hood.

Rear: The rear end is tall but handsome thanks to sporty taillights, a lack of chrome, and nice, round twin tailpipes.

Profile: Here's one car where a small greenhouse actually looks good and melds well with the car's curves. The contrasting black fender trim also looks great.

Cabin: Mazda interiors are some of the best, and our tester came with the excellent parchment leather seats. Everything else ties together well in a sporty but still elegant interior.

Comfort

7.6

 

The CX-3 suffers from a cramped second row and tight interior dimensions. It's the least spacious of all Mazda's, but at least front row passengers get great seating.

Front Seats: Well-bolstered and well-cushioned, Mazda makes great seats that are truly comfortable on the road. The leather quality is excellent, as well.

Rear Seats: Rear seats are comfortable, but the leg and headroom suffer. Six footers don't fit well.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The build quality is good, and we didn't experienc any squeaks or rattles. When the engine is pushed hard, though, some intrusion enters the cabin.

Visibility: The front and side visibility are good, but the back is compromised due to small windows and thick pillars.

Climate: The CX-3's climate system is strong and blew cold air quickly during Chicago's warm summer climes.

Safety

8.8

 

The CX-3 does quite well in crash safety tests, and the level of standard safety tech is solid.

IIHS Rating: For 2018, the CX-3 gets the Top Safety Pick rating thanks to "good" in all crash tests and "superior" front crash prevention.

NHTSA Rating: It earns the full 5-star crash rating from the government.

Standard Tech: The full standard set on the Grand Touring includes Smart Brake Support with collision warning, Advanced Smart City Brake Support with pedestrian detection, Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Lane Departure Warning, a rearview camera, Hill Launch Assist, Smart City Brake Support, and Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Optional Tech: No Monroney provided.

Storage/Cargo

5.7

 

There's no question that the CX-3 isn't big. You can tell from the outside of the car that is has sporting intentions in mind, not cargo practicality. That being said, at least the cabin has decent storage compartments.

Storage Space: There are two spacious storage compartments, one below the center stack thats angled and grippy, while the binnacle under the armrest is deep and wide for larger items.

Cargo Room: Room behind the rear seats is only 12 cubic feet, and with the 60/40 split folding row down, it's a mere 45 cubic feet, one of the smallest in the segment. The liftover height is also tall, making it hard to load heavier items into the back.

Fuel Economy

9

 

The 148-hp naturally-aspirated engine, combined with the CX-3's light 2,900-lb curb weight makes for great efficiency in a crossover.

Observed: 29.4 mpg

Distance Driven: 133 miles

Driving Factors: If we hadn't driven the CX-3 in Sport mode almost exclusively, we would've achieved even better numbers since we spent about 50 percent of the time on highways.

Audio

8.4

 

The upgraded 9-speaker Bose system is good but not great. There's something about the system that just doesn't seem as full and crisp as other premium systems. At least it comes standard in Grand Touring trim, so there's no additional cost.



Final Thoughts

The CX-3 is a specialized flavor in the crossover segment. It's not powerful, not capacious, and not mainstream by any means, but that's why we love it so much. Get behind the wheel, and you feel engaged, and your know your CX-3 isn't nearly as common as the Honda HR-V or the Chevy Trax. It's a unique model that's a blast to drive and great to look at. If it's size you're looking for, you're barking up the wrong tree.
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